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Christopher Langham (born 14 April 1949) is a BAFTA award-winning Britishmarker writer, actor and comedian. He is most famous for playing MP Hugh Abbot in BBC Four sitcom The Thick of It and as presenter Roy Mallard in People Like Us, first on BBC Radio 4 and later on its transfer to television on BBC Two, where Mallard is almost entirely an unseen character. He subsequently created several spoof adverts in the same vein. He also played similar unseen interviewers in an episode of the television series Happy Families and in the film The Big Tease. He is also well-known for his roles in the TV series Not the Nine O'Clock News, Help, Kiss Me Kate and as the gatehouse guard in Chelmsford 123.

On 2 August 2007 Langham was found guilty of downloading indecent images of children from the Internet but found not guilty of six counts of indecent assault. He was sentenced to ten months in prison on 14 September 2007. On 14 November 2007, he won an appeal against the length of his sentence and was released after serving three and a half months.

Career

Langham read English and Drama at Bristol Universitymarker before moving into a career in comedy, writing for Spike Milligan. He had a small part in Monty Python's Life of Brian as a centurion. One of his earliest breaks was as the sole British writer for The Muppet Show. He also appeared as the "special guest star" in the thirteenth episode of the final season, when the scheduled guest, Richard Pryor, was unable to make it to the recording; a script was hastily written in which "Chris the Delivery Boy" stood in for an absent celebrity. He received two awards from the Writers Guild of America for his work on The Muppet Show.

Langham was part of the original cast for Not the Nine O'Clock News pilot in 1979. Even after the original pilot was pulled from the schedules he was retained for the first full series, billed equally with the then unknown Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson and Rowan Atkinson. The first series did not rate as well as hoped, however, and it was felt that Langham was "too independent a spirit" so he was replaced by support player Griff Rhys Jones. Langham did not learn of the switch until the last day of filming when he heard the crew discussing the second series. The show only achieved cult status during its later series and, in subsequent compilation repeats, most of Langham's contributions have been cut, giving the impression that he was never a main cast member. This impression was not helped by the fact that the first series of the show has not been repeated, owing to a belief within the BBC that the material was of a topical nature and would therefore not be suitable for transmission so long after the event.

Langham went on to appear on Smith and Jones' own programme, Alas Smith and Jones, playing an ineffectual panel show host; this character apparently inspired John Morton to create the character of Roy Mallard, later to feature in his show People Like Us played (offscreen) by Langham. Langham also played a fly-on-the-wall documentary interviewer very similar to Roy Mallard in Happy Families in 1985.

Also in 1979, Langham played Arthur Dent in the first professional stage version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, directed by Ken Campbell. He later returned to Hitchhiker's, appearing as Prak in Above The Title Production's Tertiary Phase radio series in 2004.

Langham narrated the 1984 radio series The History of Rock with Chris Langham, in which Langham gave a comedic, and somewhat fictitious, account of the history of rock music. On 14 November 1985 Langham appeared as the narrator/reporter in "Roxanne", episode five of the BBC situation comedy Happy Families, written by Ben Elton. In 1992 he appeared in the film Carry On Columbus.

In addition to several one-man shows, Langham counts among his stage credits Les Misérables, in which he played Thénardier in 1996, Crazy for You, for which he received an Olivier nomination, The Way of the World, The Nerd, Blondel and The Pirates of Penzance.

Langham wrote the BBC One sitcom Kiss Me Kate, in which he also appeared along with Caroline Quentin and Amanda Holden. In 2002 he wrote and starred in Bradford in My Dreams, an adaptation of a short story by Lawrence Block for the BBC. On Radio 4 he narrated the series The Rapid Eye Movement, which starred Martin Freeman as Chester Bennington, in whose head the entire series took place. In 2003 he directed the comedy series Posh Nosh.

In 2003 and 2005, respectively, he portrayed the authors George Orwell and John Wyndham in the BBC docudrama George Orwell - A Life In Pictures and the BBC Four documentary John Wyndham: the Invisible Man of Science Fiction. He also appeared in the radio magazine satire The Sunday Format.

He starred alongside co-writer Paul Whitehouse in Help on BBC Two in 2005, where he also appeared in the Armando Iannucci comedy The Thick of It in the same year. Langham was named Best Comedy Actor in the 2005 British Comedy Awards and won the 2006 BAFTA Best Comedy Performance award for his role in The Thick Of It. In November 2005 Langham wrote and starred in ITV pilot Seven Second Delay.

He was a frequent guest on The Heaven and Earth Show and part of Bremner, Bird and Fortune writing team. In this series he has occasionally appeared as a civil servant discussing things with Bremner's Tony Blair. On radio Langham has appeared as a panellist on the Radio 4 show Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive.

Arrest and conviction

On 29 November 2005, Langham was arrested by Kent Police in connection with Operation Ore, an ongoing investigation into internet child pornography, and was released on bail. The arrest was first reported in the press on 16 December 2005 , in response to which Langham's lawyer read a statement in which he said that he was innocent, and pointed out that he had not been charged.On 11 May 2006 he was charged with 15 counts of "making indecent images" (a technical legal term actually meaning downloading of images as distinct from the act of photography) of children.

The trial took place during July and August 2007. Part of Langham's defence to these charges in court was that they were research on a paedophile character "Pedro" for a television comedy. Langham's former Help co-star/writer Paul Whitehouse confirmed that the character was referred to as a "peeping tom" who was prone to highly dubious sexual behaviour. "It was implied he had rubbed up against someone on a train" Whitehouse stated in court. Whitehouse stated that he was unaware that the character was intended to be a paedophile, nor was he personally aware of Langham obtaining such material for the development of the programme's script. However, a script was read out in which Pedro ogles young women and says: "God sent these young girls to me as temptation and I failed."

A selection of files and images found on Langham's laptop computer was shown to the jury on 25 July 2007. Langham stated under oath that he had been sexually abused by a stranger as a child, and admitted having pornography to help him "work through" his own psychological difficulties which resulted, but denied being himself a paedophile. He stated of one pornographic film downloaded that "I talked to my wife about it. I’m one of the children in the photographs. That’s the problem I have with it. I don’t know how to react to it," adding:

On 2 August 2007 Langham was found guilty on charges of possessing child pornography and made to sign the sexual offenders register. He was remanded in custody pending sentencing on September 14. Langham was also charged with eight sexual offences against an unnamed woman who was below the age of 16 at the time the assaults supposedly happened. Langham was acquitted of all these charges in the same trial where the pornography offences were considered. He was sentenced to ten months in prison on 14 September 2007.

Langham stated throughout that he was determined to clear his name but withdrew from all BBC projects pending the outcome of the case. On 5 December 2006 it was reported that he was banned from attending the 2006 British Comedy Awards despite his current show, The Thick of It, being a contender for an award. Many industry commentators are pointing out that the jailing of Langham may bring an abrupt halt to the actor and writer's 30-year comedy career, just as it was peaking.

He was released on 14 November 2007 after he won an appeal which reduced his sentence to six months. On his release he stated "My life has been ruined but my conscience is clear" and complained that the media "completely ignored" the court's "acceptance based upon all the evidence and expert opinion that I have no sexual interest in children". Dame Heather Steel, who gave the Appeal Court'smarker decision, said that the court viewed Langham's explanation as "highly improbable" but could not actually reject it. The court considered that he was still guilty of encouraging "despicable acts" through downloading the pornography.

Post-release

Only a few days after his release from prison, Langham was interviewed by celebrity psychologist Dr Pamela Connolly (née Stephenson), with whom he had worked on Not the Nine O'Clock News, for her UK television series Shrink Rap where he discussed being abused as an eight-year-old child, the events that led up to his conviction and the subsequent trial. The interview was broadcast on More4 on 15 January 2008.

Langham was also invited to make a speech in front of the Oxford Unionmarker on 29 May 2008. This invitation was subsequently withdrawn.

References

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